The reader’s contribution published here is about a recent, unprecedented event in the history of British politics: Truss resigning after only 44 days and after several tumultuous weeks, making her the shortest-serving prime minister in the history of the United Kingdom. In that short amount of time one minister had had already been sacked and another (Home Secretary Braverman) withdrew after expressing her no-confidence in Truss, but that was not the real reason for her resignation. In the background was a much more important issue and that was the government’s incompetent financial-economic policy in face of an obvious rise in class struggle in the UK, a policy that was strongly disapproved by the US. The comrade’s contribution shows very well how the US then put pressure on the UK government by financial manipulations and blackmail in cooperation with the IMF, with the aim of forcing it to change its policy, or better, to resign in favour of a new government, led by Sunak.
This example, as well as the different historical examples in the contribution, shows that the “special relationship” between the UK and the US - and there should not be the slightest ambiguity about this - is characterised by ruthless force in which the policy of the stronger imperialism is “to bring and maintain the weaker partner in line”. The bourgeoisie of the UK, as the weaker partner, has understood the message and has backed down.
We support the contribution because of the clarification it is able to bring in a period which is determined by the global free-for-all, in which events are more and more unpredictable. It meets the needs of the working class to make a correct assessment of the strength and weaknesses of its historical enemy, the bourgeoisie, and therefore contributes to the development of clear perspectives for the working class struggle.
The pressure is on all the major capitals from the deepening of the economic crisis, the effects of decomposition and the fall-out from the war in Ukraine. But more so than many others, Britain, the fifth (or sixth) world economy has been particularly hit, not least through the self-imposed and completely irrational Brexit decision (“taking back control”) which has left this already weakened country extremely vulnerable to further economic shocks and instability. The “Tory crisis” has further exacerbated Britain’s difficulties, putting into power, as it did, two completely unsuitable characters and cliques – Johnson and Truss – that could only further increase the problems faced by British capital in a much more uncertain world. The Conservative Party, the oldest and most stable of all the democratic parties, has been particularly inept faced with crises and global problems and its reputation for economic competence has taken a severe knock. Given the continuing deep-seated problems in the ranks of the Conservatives it is difficult to see the Tory party coming back from this into a relative coherence by the next election, and the bourgeoisie look to be preparing the Labour Party for power – which is maybe something it did not want to do just yet.
The factor of the class struggle
If the general publicity around the position of the British economy – the IMF warnings, the fall in government bonds and the surging price of borrowing - has been centred on the question of money-markets, borrowing rates and so-on, then there was something much more fundamentally related to the class struggle from the original outcry and warnings from the USA via the IMF to the British bourgeoisie; while the economic aspects are undoubtedly important, what also spooked the IMF and world leaders most was that, through its tax-cutting budget “for the rich” and its promotion of discredited “trickle-down” economics, the British bourgeoisie (as represented by the Truss cult) was flinging down a direct challenge to the working class in Britain. Behind all the original warnings and statements from the IMF regarding the British plans was the concern that this could be incendiary for the class struggle in Britain, in a situation where the IMF and world leaders could clearly see a profound resurgence of workers’ struggle in Britain, posing a threat for Western Europe and the English-speaking countries of the world where significant strikes are also breaking out.
Such a frontal attack from a relatively weak bourgeoisie against a working class that had become an example of proletarian combativity alarmed all the other major western powers, and the first utterances of the IMF expressed this with its talk about the dangers of increased “inequality” and the like (as if they cared about that). President Biden led the charge; immediately stating that the British “mini-budget” with its tax cuts for the wealthy was a “mistake” and that a British climbdown was “predictable”, “because I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a mistake”. Their fears confirmed the reality of the analysis of the ICC concerning the importance of the workers’ struggle in Britain for English-speaking countries (US, Canada, Australia and South Africa) along with the countries of Western Europe.
So, if the economic aspects of the Truss government’s lunatic economic policies have perturbed certain global issues relating to debt and so on, the political and social aspects – the class struggle – has been a very important factor in the USA pulling Britain back into some sort of line, and in that respect it is a line that many European governments could go along with.
The US unleashes an attack on the British economy
The class struggle was a very important factor in the actions of the IMF against the British economy over concerns about a particularly dumb section of the bourgeoisie facing a militant and active working class; this is not at all about any concern for the living conditions of the working class but an expression of the real concern about the “contagion” of class struggle spreading wider. But, following this, we can’t leave out the prime role of the US administration in bringing the UK to heel politically and getting its economy under tighter control, meaning that the Truss government had to go, a requirement which the British bourgeoisie complied with almost immediately by rigging the party’s vote to ensure that Sunak was elected PM and that the vote didn’t go to the membership, who would have voted overwhelmingly for Johnson and his populist clique to come back again.
Against its foes and potential rivals, we’ve seen the propensity of the Biden administration to sow the most terrible chaos in order to defend the imperialist interests of the USA (mainly in continuity with previous administrations). Thus, China’s main hubs for its “Silk Road” have been systematically destroyed by direct and indirect American action: Afghanistan, Ethiopia/Tigray, Ukraine and Sri Lanka. But when it comes to its “oldest and most trusted” ally, Britain, American imperialism can be no less hostile and ruthless. The US action in what The Independent newspaper called “the political and economic maelstrom that followed Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwartang’s mini-budget” provoked increased British borrowing costs, increased government debt, increased interest rates and a bond market in free-fall. An immediate knock-on effect was that UK pension funds, holding around £1 trillion, has had to be rescued by the Bank of England in order to stop it going into a “doom loop”.
It’s true that there is a very close relationship between American and British intelligence services (and probably a great rivalry) and this could be particularly more so now given that Israel maintains some ambiguities within the current free-for-all of international relations, intensified by the decomposition of capitalism, that are not in the interests of the US. But while there is a strong relationship through intelligence and language, the history of the British/American “special relationship” has been one of ruthless aggression by the latter, containing actions destined to bring and maintain the weaker partner in line. It was the US administration that, along with and through the IMF, led the run on the British bond market, forcing the bourgeoisie to abandon its recently-elected Truss faction and her backers and go for Sunak, who was always the favoured candidate of the US with the unreliable and untrustworthy Johnson out of the way. Through the manipulation of the British bond market and its borrowing costs, the IMF was deploying the means put forward by the US administration in order to blackmail the British political regime in the interests of US imperialism.
Britain’s “special relationship” with the US is one of imperialist force
The whole history of the UK/US “special relationship” has been one based on the most ruthless plunder of the former by the latter. It was only in 2006 that Britain paid its last instalment of the war debt it owed to America – which amounted to about a trillion dollars in today’s money. The US billed Britain for everything: arms, war-planes, the factories to build them, the land purchased to build the factories; the same for new naval vessels (along with some rusting hulks), food, the cost of the transportation of everything right down to the cost of the saxophones played by US jazz bands entertaining US troops on British bases. Every last cent was itemised. During the period from World War I, when the US began to replace Great Britain as the world’s major imperialist power, the US has plundered from Britain goods, monies, materials and territories. Particularly profitable and strategic territories were blatantly seized and the British bourgeoisie has had to swallow it all through clenched teeth.
During the Suez crisis in the mid-50’s, when the British disregarded US strictures not to invade Egypt, the Eisenhower administration set in motion a run on British government bonds along with other financial measures in order to punish Britain (and France which was part of the Suez invasion force) for its actions. The Conservative Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, was forced to resign soon afterwards as the British bourgeoisie, grudgingly but pragmatically, accepted US “order”. The “Eisenhower Doctrine” of 1957 established US domination of the Middle East and relegated Britain and France to bit players. Just as Truss’s chancellor Kwarteng was summoned to the IMF to hear the strictures of the State Department in person (while it was taking measures to undermine the British economy), past Labour governments have also seen a couple of chancellors summoned in this way in order to be told what to do in order to comply with US interests.
While links between US and British security services have remained strong, those between joint military activities of the two forces have been more fractious, hostile even as during the war in ex-Yugoslavia (1991-2001) when Britain refused US diktats and supported military factions opposing those of the US. The British army’s debacles and eventual defeats in Helmand, Afghanistan and Basra, Iraq, dressed up and sold as “victories”, drew nothing but scorn from the US military.
Ireland: a continuing and major bone of contention between British and American imperialism
The Trump administration fed and encouraged the Brexit “project” as well as the right-wing figures of the Conservative Party and likes of Nigel Farage and his xenophobic populism. But Trump couldn’t undermine the US position on Ireland, both for reasons of domestic politics and the interests of US imperialism. This, and its relationship to any trade deal with the UK, will remain the same under any Democratic or Republican administration. As punishment for Brexit Britain has remained firmly “at the back of the queue” (President Obama, April, 2016) for any trade deal and remained so just as much under Trump. The Brexit decision to leave the EU, and related to it, British manoeuvres to undermine the US-imposed Irish “peace process”, continues to exasperate the US administration and aggravate tensions.
Recent statements by British officials (after the economic meltdown caused by US economic manipulations) regarding talks with the EU about Ireland have apparently taken a more “positive” turn, reflecting I think renewed State Department pressure on Britain over the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol. But the British bourgeoisie continues to prevaricate, not least through its Unionist factions, and is now proposing fresh elections for “power sharing”, which everyone agrees will end up in exactly the same blockage on a Northern Ireland Assembly that resulted from last May’s election.
Beyond these sordid manoeuvres - the “experiments” of a weakened British regime, the response of the USA to bring its “trusted ally” back into line - the ravages of capitalist barbarism and decomposition continue to bite and the ruling class everywhere will saddle the working class with the bill; and through its policies regarding “the return to austerity” (as if we ever left it) the workers will be faced by the ever-rising costs of a capitalism in crisis and decay.
Despite the worst being avoided by the bourgeoisie with the unceremonious dumping of the Truss clique and its replacement by Sunak under American pressure, the Tory Party continues to tear itself apart, not least with stories coming from British intelligence about the weakness of security among Tory ministers which can only lead to further fragility within the Conservative Party and greater concern from US imperialism.
Baboon, November 1st 2022